SXSW 2021: A Bungling Revenge Story – ‘Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break’ Reviewed

by Gary Catig

More people than ever have aspirations to become famous these days. With so many reality television competitions and the constant access to social media, there are plenty of opportunities to be picked from obscurity and placed in the spotlight. But what if someone got in your way to prevent your shot to pursue your dreams and become a star? The dark comedy that screened at this year’s SXSW, Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunchbreak, explores such a situation.

Tom Meeten, in the titular role, is a loveable loser with big goals but not a lot of talent. He hopes to win a nationwide competition and plans to attend an audition in his hometown. When he heads out with his very supportive mother (she designed all his sparkly outfits), they are constantly delayed and interrupted by a series of separate selfish and self-absorbed people. Just when their luck seems to turn, something else bad happens. Paul arrives to his tryout late and misses his opportunity. Tragedy soon strikes pushing an already disappointed man over the edge and he vows revenge on those he blames.

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunchbreak plays as two separate films. The first half is spent on Paul’s odyssey to his audition. Meeten’s wide eyed, optimistic, and even innocent portrayal really makes the protagonist someone to get behind. Dood’s close relationship with his mom is endearing and his dreams of fame are as much his as they are hers.

We are also introduced to all of Paul’s future nemeses from a train station attendant on a power trip to a white tea shop owner that takes Japanese culture to seriously to an unholy priest. Most are humorously awful and despicable in their own way. The only one not an over-the-top caricature is Paul’s co-worker. He is used to highlight emotional beats and grows as a character since he’s the only one to know the protagonist on a personal level. Because they’re so horrible, you kind of want them to die just for existing.

The second part of the movie has Paul stalking his prey while the police close in on him. As much as he imagines it, he’s not a stone-cold assassin so it’s funny to watch him bungle his way through each of his adversaries. The fact that all his exploits are live streamed to an audience adds an interesting observation on social media. As the body count increases, so does his comments and viewers.

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunchbreak is a comical revenge story with a lot of blood but, surprisingly, a lot of heart.

SXSW runs from March 16th-21st.

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